The Best Free / Open Source Animation Software

The Best Free 3D Animation & Drawing Animation Software

For the most part, animation is not an expensive craft to pursue but it does come with some fairly pricey overheads when you’re first getting started out.

If you’re in animation school, chances are you’ve got access to all of the equipment and software you could possibly need. But if you’re interested in kitting out your home setup with animation software, the price tag can quickly rack up. Luckily, there are some free animation software alternatives which are good enough to see you through the majority of animation projects you’ll undertake.

Presenting…

The Best Software for Animation: 2D Animation

Pencil

OS: Mac, Windows, Linux

When it comes to free and open-source 2D animation programs, Pencil is by far the most well-rounded and comes with a surprising number of features given that it comes with no charge.

Although it looks simple from the clean interface, it is packed with all the main tools you’ll find in some of the Pencil’s paid counterparts. It supports both vector and bitmap images, multiple layers and has its own in-built illustration tools (so you can either import graphics or create them right there and then before animating them).

Synfig Studios

OS: Mac, Windows, Linux

Right up there with Pencil, Synfig is very similar in design but arguably comes with a steeper learning curve; reason being, it throws in even more advanced features, and the results which can be achieved once you master them border on the professional level.

Stykz

OS: Mac, Windows, Linux

Given the above two open-source suites which offer an impressive level functionality, why are we featuring a simple stickman animation tool?

Simply put, Stykz has got a lot of use for anyone who likes to draft things out before getting down to fully-fledged artwork and animating. It’s completely free with no strings attached, works on any platform and can produce fluid .GIFs incredibly quickly (which will no doubt lead on to bigger things).

One particularly neat feature is that it also integrates with Pivot, another node-based (and free) animation tool.

CreaToon

OS: Windows

An entry-level animation program, CreaToon is cut-out based (all graphics are imported) that takes a lot of the headache out of creating cartoon-esque animation. While it isn’t quite as polished as some of the other names on this list, the real-time editing, auto in-frame filling and versatile file format support are real pulls.

Ajax Animator

OS: Windows, Mac, iPad

Not to be confused with the coding language, Ajax started life back in 2006 and was developed by a 6th grader as a replacement to Adobe’s expensive Flash MX. From such auspicious beginnings emerged a robust and fully functional animator that is well worth checking out despite its primitive look, especially if you’re an iPad user.

The Best 3D Animation Software

Blender

OS: Mac, Windows, Linux, FreeBSD

If you’ve heard of Blender, that’s because it’s one of the most widely-used free animation softwares still in active development (even professional animators and video game developers turn to it from time to time). Although it may take some time for beginners to get to grips with, those who manage to put even half the features Blender offers to use will be able to produce very impressive results.

Bryce

OS: Mac, Windows

Although it’s not strictly an animation suite, free terrain generation software (of decent quality) is hard to come by. Bryce has really stepped up to the plate in this department – as a terragen, it’s both as simple and as elaborate as you need it to be depending on the scale of your project and works seamlessly with most other modeling software.

Incidentally, Bryce is developed by DAZ 3D, who are also responsible for:

DAZ Studio

OS: Mac, Windows

This fantastic modeling and animation software wasn’t always free, but as of 2012, the professional version of DAZ is yours simply for signing up for a free registration account. The rendering engine is lightning fast, and the huge library of pre-created component content will have you creating in no time.

Clara.io

OS: Browser-based

Not only is Clara free, but it’s the only web-based one we can think of that is fully functional (and you don’t need any browser plugins to get it going). Not only does it feature a good system for polygonal modeling and skeletal/keyframe animation, but due to its 80,000+ user base there’s a strong community feel and plenty of people with which to chat shop.

Know of any great free or open source drawing animation software/tools which we’re missing? Do help the animation community out by leaving your suggestions in the comments below. And, if you’re interested in learning more about 3D animation and visual effects, check out NYFA’s 3D Animation & VFX School to begin your journey.

The Best Free / Open Source Animation Software by